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Sunday, March 11, 2012

PUMA Finish Second After Epic Battle - Volvo Ocean Race

Auckland, New Zealand – Twelve hours after Groupama sailing team won Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG won an epic battle for second place, clinching the runner's up spot on a rainy morning in Auckland to complete a memorable comeback and secure their first offshore podium place in 2011-12.
Photo: Ian Roman/Volvo Ocean Race
Team Telefónica followed them in just under 50 minutes later for third after holding off CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand in a scrap that continued gybe-for-gybe all the way to the finish line.
Photo: Ian Roman/Volvo Ocean Race
Just around 93 seconds separated Telefónica, winners of the first three legs, and CAMPER -- a tiny margin after a leg that took the teams over 5,220 nautical miles from Sanya in China to the sailing-mad city of Auckland in New Zealand.
Photo: Ian Roman/Volvo Ocean Race
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing came in just under 34 minutes later for fifth, with Team Sanya the sixth boat in just over 35 minutes after that.

Thousands of fans jammed into spectator craft to welcome the boats in and thousands more packed Auckland Viaduct Harbour after a drag race through the churning water completed a fantastic set of arrivals to mark the race's return to the city after a gap of 10 years.

"My God, I feel good to be in Auckland," said PUMA's American skipper Ken Read after the team had received a traditional Maori welcome into the harbour.

"From day one of this leg, ever since we sailed into the South China Sea, it's been tough. I know that's what we signed up for but man this was a challenging leg. This result is something we can build on. We just wish we had a couple more weeks to hang around in Auckland."

While Groupama sailing team were making a triumphant entry into the City of Sails on Saturday night, PUMA were nursing a slim advantage over the pack, with just 40 nautical miles separating the five boats as a tense, tactical race for the best way to play the currents and to avoid wind holes raged through the night.

PUMA managed to protect their lead, coming in at 10:33:47 UTC for a total elapsed time of 20 days 3 hours 57 minutes in Leg 4, nearly three full weeks of sailing.

Telefónica now lead the overall standings with 121 points despite losing their perfect record offshore. Groupama have 103 points and take over second place from CAMPER, now back in third on 98, with PUMA fourth on 78.

The next racing will happen Saturday, March 17 with Auckland’s In-Port Race and the Leg 5 start on Sunday, March 18.

Sunday's result confirms that PUMA are back in business after the broken mast that saw them forced to retire from Leg 1, and gave them little time to prepare for Leg 2. Second place into Auckland marks their first podium finish in an offshore leg and it came courtesy of a terrific comeback.

They started the leg with a 39 minute deficit after being hit by a windless patch while leading on Stage 1 and watching the fleet sail past them. It looked like ill luck was set to stay with them as they were forced on a more and more northerly course.

Their strategy worked, bringing them back in touch with the fleet after days of ever more lonely sailing towards Japan, before Groupama took control in a strong easterly position on day seven.

CAMPER hopes of challenging for the lead suffered a devastating blow when they tore their vital J2 headsail, losing 60 miles to Groupama in the process, and it became increasingly clear that this was all about the race for second.

The three boats behind Groupama stayed neck and neck all the way through to the finish.

Volvo Ocean Race Media

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